Embrace the release of data

Consumer minister Ed Davey has a dream: “A shift away from a world in which certain businesses control the information they hold about consumers, towards one in which individuals, acting alone or in groups, can use their data or views about an organisation for their own or mutual benefit”.

Russell Parsons

Not quite as lofty an ambition as the better known dream Dr King had but a worthwhile sentiment all the same. And one that could kick-start a paradigm shift for a direct marketing industry that is entirely dependent on the flow of data.

Davey was speaking at the launch of MyData, an initiative that will see ministers working with companies including Barclaycard, Everything Everywhere and Google to help develop a system that allows consumers instant digital access to the data collected by brands for marketing purposes.

The aim is to allow consumers to acquire the consumption information that firms collect from credit card transactions or mobile phone use, for example, in an open, digital form. A more nimble and customer friendly system, it is hoped, than the current 40-day process that returns information in many formats.

Giving up control of captured data, an asset prized as highly as any by direct marketers under pressure to improve the efficiency of campaigns, might seem like a step too far but it should be seen as an opportunity and not necessarily a threat to the bottom line.

In an age where consumers are so readily giving up personal data when using the internet or mobile technology, it seems only fair that Government and brands should find a way to allow consumers access to that data and present it in a way that is useful to helping consumers make informed choices.

As the DMA observed last week, “This is a shift towards a more permission-based information-sharing marketing environment that could help direct marketers reduce opt-outs and encourage opt-ins.”

Privacy worries and concern over the amount of data, not to mention fear of security breaches, have created a cynicism among consumers that “big brother” brands are taking without giving.

What better way to address this by showing that your brand is willing and able to give back captured data. And if the fear is that MyData’s proposed development of comparative apps and tools will “empower” consumers into the arms of competitors, then think of a new proposition that sets you apart from the crowd.

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